Scots computer whiz kid is an Oscar contender


A SCOTTISH Oscar contender owes his Holywood success to having been a “puny computer geek” at school.

Special effects wizard Phil Brennan will be rubbing shoulders with the A-listers of the movie world tomorrow night (Sunday).

Phil, 45, is up for an Oscar for his work on the blockbuster Snow White and the Huntsman, which starred Charlize Theron.

Phil, right, hopes his work will earn an Oscar
Phil, right, hopes his work will earn an Oscar


But proud father Robert said his son’s fanatical love of early PCs set him on the road from Edinburgh to Tinsel Town.

The 76-year-old said: “When I was a lot younger I worked for Hewlett Packard back when the first PCs were coming out.

“We were told to go on a course to get to grips with micro-processing and the software and Phil – who was about 11 at the time – begged me to take him too.

“He sat there in the class full of men in their 30s and he was just loving it.

“He was getting to grips with the computers faster than we were and his hand always flew up to answer or ask questions.

“That’s when I thought ‘Yep, this boy’s going to be a computer geek’.”



 Robert said his son combined his interest in computers with a flair for drawing while a pupil at Stewart’s Melville College, a private school in Edinburgh.

“He was always a wee guy and not overly muscly so didn’t go out too much compared to other boys his age,” said Robert.

“Guys at school gave him the nickname ‘Puny’ but I don’t think he minded.

“He just always studied and worked hard. Ever since then he’s always worked in computers.

“It kind of makes sense now to see him working in SFX after his interests in art as a boy and it’s great to see him being nominated for the Oscars.”

Phil went to Strathclyde University to study microprocessing engineering, a course now known as computer science.

He Scotland shortly after graduating to work with film production company Asylum.



 For the past 20 years he has lived in Los Angeles and has produced special effects for blockbusters such as Moulin Rouge, Minority Report, National Treasure and Master and Commander.

In 2004 he won a Hollywood Visual Effects Awards for his part in the Pirates of the Caribbean trilogy.

The Scot was snapped up by Universal in 2011 who asked him to work on Snow White where he brought the storybook world to life through “camera tricks” and also scouted locations in Glen Coe for use in the film.

Phil now stays in Los Angeles with wife Yuriko and finds out on Sunday night with co-nominees Cedric Nicolas-Troyan, Neil Corbould and Michael Dawson if they win their category.

He faces stiff competition in the Best Visual Effects category from The Hobbit, Prometheus, Avengers Assemble and Life of Pi.

Phil found out he was nominated for the award while working on Wolverine 2 – the sequel to the 2009 X Men Origins movie.

During filming the Scot was even serenaded by Hugh Jackman who found out it was his birthday after he tried to keep it a secret.



 Phil said: “My birthday fell on one of the days when we were in Australia but I tried to keep it quiet.

 “But Hugh Jackman found out and sang ‘Happy Birthday’ to me in front of everyone.

“I realise some people would probably not complain about that, but I really don’t like to be the centre of attention.”

Speaking last month about the nomination, Phil said: “This year is particularly competitive. I’m so proud to be in this group, it probably represents the best work ever done in visual effects.

“Due to our time limit and budget, coupled with the sheer number of scenes they were featured in, there were some who questioned whether it could be done.

“But using a combination of visual effects and camera tricks we managed to make it work.

“There’s almost nothing that can’t be achieved now, and so many scripts that were once deemed unfilmable because the technology wasn’t there, or because it was too expensive, are now being adapted for the screen, which is very exciting.

“I want to stress though, that while we four have been named in the nomination, the film was the work of literally hundreds of people who all deserve as much credit.”

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